About five years ago, concerned Syrian Americans who called Cincinnati home, founded the Syrian American Foundation. With the uprising going on in the Middle East, this new organization was supposed to assist with the new changes that would have happened, helping to guide the transition of the new society.
Five years later, instead of transforming into a new, democratic society, Syria is the center of the humanitarian crisis of our generation, with mounting civilians toll, unprecedented migration, and stories after stories of trauma, grief, and never ending war.
Dima Almeniawi, an architect by training, is now leading the Syrian American Foundation, to continue to support the communities now left behind in Syria, displaced, and unable to get out of the country. While the horrifying stories of refugees crossing the borders and the sea might have captivated us and shaken out humanity, the refugees were the 'lucky ones' who have resources to take the journey, they have enough savings to pay the smugglers and to go to the unknown with the hope of a new life in peace.
The situation for those left behind in Syria is far more complicated. Their homes might have been destroyed. Schools are closed. Everything is uncertain when there is war. The country is under international embargo. When the government that supposed to protect the people is the one committing the most astrocities, there's almost nowhere to find help. The UN OCHA ? The two most active organizations working in the country are International Red Cross and Syrian Red Crescent.
Saf is working with a local organization (Rahma?) to send winter clothing, school supplies to the IDPs. Their last shipments was just arrived... Right now they are working to fill up another container before winter months come. (Please contact me if you have something to share).
The Case of Sending Goods
in the humanitarian assistance training 101, sending goods overseas that cost more shipping cost and time is not the best idea. In many cases such as natural disasters it is better to send monetary funds that will be spent in the local economy rather than sending things from abroad that people may or may not need. However, there are certain cases that this may not apply: to avoid corruption and in the case of severe conflict such as what's going on in Syria.
In addition to sending winter gears and clothing, SAF also sends backpack with school supplies, which children on the move desperately need to continue their education.
I visited the storage area where SAF prepares their shipping. The request are winter clothing and gear for all sizes, either new or gently used, backpack with school supplies, diapers, medications, etc. a volunteer was working there, a mom, who wa going to stay until school was out. sometimes it is difficult to arrange a work day where everyone will be working either
Dima also works with Syrian American Engineer Association to continue improve the life of people in Syria, despite of the war. Last year, they work on providing water supply in many villages, and this year, they are working on a more effective shelter.
While one refugee family has arrived in Cincinnati, the next family won't be here for awhile because of the State Govt. rejection. The State doesn't have any authority to decide on refugee resettlement, but they can defer the funding, which will make it very difficult for the program to go on. so far, SAF has been working with Catholic Charities of Southwest Ohio to help the family to resettle one family in the area. The process have been challenging for SAF whose probably the only organization that can help ease the transition for the family since they share the same culture.